Colin McRae began his competitive career in motorsport riding trial bikes at an early age, despite being more interested in four wheeled machines rather than two wheel bikes. At the age of sixteen, through the Coltness Car Club, McRae discovered autotesting, he soon traded his bike for a Mini Cooper and started competing. A year later, he began to negotiate with another club member to use his Hillman Avenger for the Kames Stages, a single-staged rally venue not far from McRae's home. McRae finished the event fourteenth; first in his class although he had run most of the event in a higher position.
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In Africa, 1950 saw the first French-run Méditerranée-le Cap, a 10,000-mile (16,000 km) rally from the Mediterranean to South Africa; it was run on and off until 1961, when the new political situation hastened its demise. In 1953 East Africa saw the demanding Coronation Safari, which went on to become the Safari Rally and a World Championship round, to be followed in due course by the Rallye du Maroc and the Rallye Côte d'Ivoire. Australia's Redex Round Australia Trial also dates from 1953, although this remained isolated from the rest of the rallying world.
McRae's death was met by much grief from former colleagues, rivals and fans alike. The announcement of his death took place during qualifying for the 2007 Belgian Grand Prix with ITV commentator James Allen informing viewers of his death. Formula One driver David Coulthard, a good friend of McRae, who was due to represent Scotland along with him in the Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium on 16 December, described him as "an understated yet fantastically talented individual", he also announced that he would race the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix with a helmet livery similar to that of McRae's as a tribute. During the finale of the 2007 Scottish Rally Championship, the "Colin McRae Forest Stages" held in Perth in September 2007, there was no number 1 car as McRae had been due to drive the course car on the event. Instead, his car was parked at the starting point of the rally, where fans were able to sign a book of condolences.
In an attempt to cut costs, since 2006 new regulations required mechanical front and rear differentials, while the central differential remained active. Active suspension and water injections were also prohibited. Cars entered by a manufacturer had to be equipped with the same engine for two rallies; further limitations were imposed on the changing of some parts, including suspension, steering, turbochargers and gearboxes.
The ultimate Grey Poupon car, except sideways on dirt. Funded by Christian Dior and his Jules fragrance, the Corniche rally car competed in the fearsome Paris-Dakar. In truth, there's very little Rolls-Royce to the Corniche rally car: it's a tubular chassis fitted with a four-wheel-drive system from a Toyota Land Cruiser and a small-block Chevy V-8. But, it looks like a Rolls, and that's what counts.
After several years of varying success, McRae switched to the M-Sport-run Ford factory team for 1999, driving the new Ford Focus rally car. The deal saw McRae earning six million pounds over two years, which at the time made him the highest earning rally driver in history. This move was immediately rewarded with two consecutive wins at the Safari Rally and Rally Portugal. A number of shunts and reliability issues for the new car for much of the rest of that season, however, resulted in only sixth place in the championship standings overall. Moreover, a rare personal pointless run had begun for McRae that year which was only to be halted with a podium on the following February's Swedish Rally, the beginning of a recovery which saw McRae victorious on the asphalt turns of Catalunya and the gravel of Greece, and post 4th in the 2000 overall standings. Midway through the 2000 season, the lacking reliability of the Focus had led to McRae threatening to leave the team if the problems continued. The upturn towards the end of the season resulted in him deciding to renew his contract with Ford for a further two years. McRae's intermittent success with Ford continued into 2001, where after failing to score in any of the first four rounds, including having momentarily led defending winner Tommi Mäkinen on the stages of the season opening Monte Carlo Rally prior to being forced into retirement, he then went on to score three consecutive victories in Argentina, Cyprus and Greece to tie with Mäkinen at the top of the points table. However, having again led the championship outright entering the final round in Great Britain, McRae once more missed out on a possible second title, crashing out and finishing second in the drivers championship, two points behind Subaru's Richard Burns.
With victory in the Safari Rally in 2002, McRae made the record books as the driver with most event wins in the World Rally Championship. His record has since been broken by Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb and Marcus Grönholm. McRae's contract with Ford came to an end following the 2002 season, and after reportedly asking for wages of five million pounds a year, Ford decided against renewing the contract, reluctant to commit such a high amount of their budget to a driver's salary. The two parties split on amicable terms, with Ford's European director of motorsport Martin Whitaker stating "On behalf of all of us at Ford Motor Company I would like to publicly thank Colin and Nicky for their efforts during the past four years with the Ford team. I wish them both well in the future." McRae said of his time with Ford "It's been a very successful four years, we've achieved a lot of very good results and I'm quite happy that myself and Ford have had a very successful partnership."
Other rallies provide organizer-created "route notes" also referred to as "stage notes" and disallow reconnaissance and use of other pacenotes. These notes are usually created using a predetermined pacenote format, from which a co-driver can optionally add comments or transpose into other pacenote notations. Many North American rallies do not conduct reconnaissance but provide stage notes through the use of the Jemba Inertia Notes System, due to time and budget constraints.
In 1986, driving a Talbot Sunbeam, McRae entered the Scottish Rally Championship and soon made a name for himself with his speed and exciting style of driving. His driving style drew many comparisons to Finnish ex-World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen, whom McRae had always idolised. In 1988 he performed a giant-killing act when he took the Scottish Rally Championship series crown in a humble Vauxhall Nova. Craving more power, his next car was a Ford Sierra XR 4x4.
Most of the works drivers of the 1950s were amateurs, paid little or nothing, reimbursed their expenses and given bonuses for winning (although there were certainly exceptions, such as the Grand Prix drivers who were brought in for some events). Then in 1960 came arguably the first rallying superstar (and one of the first to be paid to rally full-time), Sweden's Erik Carlsson, driving for Saab.